Tuesday, March 07, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Titan softball off to decent beginning

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Titan softball team is trying to replace several key players, including both starting pitchers from last year’s conference champion and state semifinal team. Also gone from a year ago are three quarters of the infield, including an All-State, college-signee at shortstop, and a starting outfielder and leadoff hitter.

Making the 2017 opening week even more difficult, the new starting pitcher, Lindsey Holt, has an injury that limits her to throwing basically nothing but fastballs.

Jacksonville is off to a 2-3 start, with wins over Forrest City and Baptist Prep, and losses to Morrilton, Lake Hamilton and Searcy.

“We’ll get better,” said Jacksonville coach Hank Hawk. “We just have to believe in ourselves and get healthy.”

One bright spot so far has been the defense in the outfield, where Hawk starts three ninth graders.

“That was obviously a question mark coming into the season, but they’ve played pretty well out there so far,” said Hawk.

One position the Titans have no concerns with is at back catcher, where senior Allison Seats returns as an All-State player.

“She’s the best catcher in the state as far as I’m concerned,” Hawk said. “She can come out and play some shortstop for us, too if we need her to. We just have to get someone ready to take her spot behind the plate. She’s an incredible player.”

The Lady Titans opened the season with a 6-5 loss to Morrilton last Tuesday. Morrilton had beaten Sylvan Hills 18-14 the day before. Sylvan Hills is one of the favorites to win the 5A/6A Central, so Hawk was glad to see his squad competitive with a common opponent.

Last Thursday the Lady Titans beat Baptist Prep 8-7, but A hampered pitcher and an inexperienced infield made that game closer than it should’ve been.

“We had some errors that cost us three or four runs easily,” Hawk said. “And with Lindsey restricted to throwing fastballs, it hurts us right now. Moving the ball around in the zone is going to be her strength and she couldn’t really do that last week.”

Jacksonville played in the Taylor Roark Memorial tournament at Sylvan Hills last weekend and lost its first two games 8-2 to LHHS and 9-2 to Searcy.

In the consolation bracket, the Titans hammered Forrest City 14-1.